In the wake of the City regulator’s recently published letters to CEOs and company directors, listing timelines and how the implementation of the mandatory Consumer Duty applies to each financial services sector.

Tara Williams, chief compliance officer at AutoProtect Group, has reviewed the letters issued by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and urged dealers to review and where appropriate, step up their plans.

“The letter sent to consumer credit lenders, which covers dealer finance, pulls no punches. It makes it clear that the FCA will hold business’ senior leaders accountable for implementing the Consumer Duty and for giving it the priority and urgency they believe it requires.” 

The urgency is evident early in the FCA’s letter; “We expect the Consumer Duty to be a top priority for you personally. We want good outcomes for customers to be at the heart of firms’ strategies and business objectives, and leaders have a key role to play here. Firms’ Boards and senior management should embed the interests of customers into the culture and purpose of the firm.”

In January, the FCA warned that having assessed some of the required Implementation Plans, which had to have been completed by 31 October last year, some firms had been ‘complacent’ and if they believed they could ‘get by’ with repackaging or supplementing existing approaches, they risked not thinking deeply or freshly about what was required.

Building on these concerns, the FCA has highlighted that a vital part of the Duty is that firms, which includes dealers, must be able to define, monitor, evidence and stand behind the outcomes their customers are experiencing concerning; products and services, price and value, consumer understanding and consumer support.

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The monitoring must enable firms to identify where customers, or groups of customers, are experiencing poor outcomes, and where this is the case, firms must take appropriate action to rectify the situation. 

Tara concluded: “Dealers must work closely with their lender partners to ensure they understand what is required and are aligned on delivering good customer outcomes. However, they must also recognise that in managing accountability, they must have developed processes and controls that fulfil the FCA’s define, monitor, and evidence requirement on an ongoing basis. With a particular focus on; products and services, price and value and consumer understanding, where dealers often play a significant part in the customer journey, which in turn can define customer outcomes.”

In May last year, the FCA first set out its plans for a Consumer Duty that would offer an improved level of consumer protection in retail financial services. The FCA said it has seen evidence of consumer harm – including firms providing information which was misleadingly presented or difficult for consumers to understand. The Duty will ask firms to consider the outcomes consumers should be able to expect from their products and services. It also asks firms to assess the effectiveness of their actions.

Consumer Duty: Are you ready?